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The Unfiltered Truth- WSU Defensive Line
Written by OpenToClose   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 21:57

The defensive line is a study in contrasts this year for WSU. The defensive end unit is probably close to what Paul Wulff envisions when thinking about what WSU would look like when it is fully functioning. There is a great mix of youth and veteran leadership. There is quality depth and a couple of players with NFL potential. Defensive tackle is more like his recurring nightmare with a lack of talent and quality depth. The position seems to be a revolving door that suffers from a key injury, lack of size or lack of talent.

 

So, the question really is how the staff will adjust to these deficiencies.  Will they do something drastic like try to play a bit of 3-4 or will they bleed some depth from the dend position and move one or two players inside? This Spring it will be fun to watch a couple of new guys fly around at end and it will probably be a little depressing to read about the production at defensive tackle. The bright side is that we have players on the edge that are legitimate Pac-10 starters with the potential to be honors candidates as they mature. We probably haven't seen a glut of talent like this since DD Ancholonu and Ike Brown were roaming the ends and leading the league in sacks.

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Overview: Perhaps the most attractive element of the group of defensive ends is the range of skills they bring to the position. You've got some players that are stout against the run and you've got a few that could be terrors coming off the edge in passing situations. Expect to see more mixing and matching of combinations to fit the run/pass situation. I would expect to see Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman top the depth chart to start the season and I would imagine you'll see liberal rotation especially with Kooyman. The staff will experiment with Jordan Pu'u Robinson and Sekope Kaufusi in obvious passing situations. They'll bring some team speed that will make you smile. Travis Long is probably as close to an every down player as we'll see at defensive end this season. He could be really special this season if he's getting some help from at least one other player on the dline and with the blitz packages the staff installs to hopefully get him plenty of isolation on our opponents left tackle.

 

The defensive tackle position is easily the least talented unit on our defense this year. There are a couple of youngsters that will be undersized but surely in the rotation. Justin Clayton and Dan Spitz will likely play next season in the low 280's and that's about 15-20 pounds lighter than you would like to see your defensive tackles. A couple more are fighting injury or academics. Toby Turpin and Josh Luapo both showed flashes but they are fighting either a healing body (Luapo) or the classroom (Turpin) to stay eligible. Both would greatly add to depth at the position and are capable of making an occasional play over the course of the game. The wild cards are Anthony Laurenzi and Bernard Wolffgramm. They probably represent our best hope at making a significant leap in quality of play this season and elevating this unit. They both picked up their first full year of play at the BCS level last season and showed flashes. Pin your hopes on those two possibly stepping up their game over the course of the Spring.

 

What to watch for: The development of the defensive tackle rotation. Watch for whether or not you see Brandon Rankin starting at defensive tackle. I've deliberately left his name out of the conversation up to this point. That's because his position is up in the air. It will be interesting to see what weight he is reported at when the Spring roster is announced. It shouldn't surprise anyone if the staff rotates him at dtackle to see if he might be able to infuse some talent at the position possibly in passing situations. He has undeniable talent and size so seeing him on the field will be imperative. Watch to see what Justin Clayton weighs as well. He seems to be putting on weight quickly and could help significantly if he's in the 290 range come Fall. Regardless, the defensive tackle roation is wide open heading into the Spring so watch for who steps up and earns those starting nods.

 

What you should pray you don't read about: That Casey Hamlett is taking significant reps at defensive end. Hamlett is a tireless worker and seems to be a great teammate. He also happens to be the type of talent that should be making a living on special teams busting up wedges and not the guy you want rushing the passer against USC on 3rd and long. A sure indication of the development of Kaufusi, Pu'u Robinson and the health of Kooyman will be whether you're reading a lot of stories about Casey Hamlett rotating with the first team. Hamlett would be tremendous  if you can allocate him to special teams this season and not the starting defensive line.

 

What to hope for coming out of Spring ball: That everyone has grown ten pounds at least and that the new wave of defensive ends dazzle at times in practice. We need to excel at SOMETHING this season on the defensive line and pass rush is the most likely to be a strength for us. We'll have the ability to mix in speed that hasn't been present before and we'll be able to rotate at end throughout the game so guys will be fresh. We could be seeing the formation of a nasty pass rush by the end of Spring practice. Now, that is certainly something to hope for.



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Comments (8)
D-line:
1 Friday, 19 March 2010 08:12
Brophy
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I think we won't be as bad at DT as people think. If Wolfgramm can get healthy, Spitz gains ~10 lbs from the end of last season to fall practices, and Laurenzi can continue to develop we'll be just fine. I watched a lot of Cougar football last season and I am pretty high on Spitz and Laurenzi's potential. I agree we look pretty decent at DE with Long, Kooyman, Rankin and a couple other promising RS freshman (I don't think they will be ready to contribute now). I totally agree about Hamlett. Based on talent alone he should not be taking a majority of snaps at DE in the PAC-10. I heard a rumor Coerper was injured for a lot of last year. I wonder where he fits into the D-line. I'm actually more worried about our inexperience at DB than our lack of depth on the DL.
Spitz huh?
2 Friday, 19 March 2010 09:14
OpenToClose
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Interesting that you bucket Spitz and Laurenzi into the group that you are hopeful about. I think Spitz will be a great dtackle but he's awfully small and I have doubts about whether he'll be up to a legit weight in time for this season. I really hope I'm wrong because he seemed quick on the interior last year and pretty effective with his hands. I think you're right about the redshirt frosh. That's what's exciting to me though. We actually have the depth at dend to put them in sparingly when all they have to do is focus on one thing. Put Kaufusi in to cover pass rush in 3rd and long and he's going to excite us. Ask him to play as an every down dend and he's going to piss us off and eventually get injured. Have to disagree on dback's. In my mind, the dtackle spot is the scariest position on our defense going into the Spring. I think you're going to be shocked at the upgrade in team speed in the secondary next year. They'll make mistakes for sure but at least they'll have the speed to make up for a few of them. I'm doing linebackers today and then dbacks this weekend. Look forward to everyone's comments!
Hearning & seeing d-tackle rumors
3 Friday, 19 March 2010 15:43
BornCoug
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Rumors are flying around regarding weights so I really am looking forward to seeing a depth chart and getting reports as well. Rankin - Packed on 20-25 pounds of "bad" weight during his year off. He was working to get eligible and wasn't playing so it's probably true to an extent. I deally I would like him at d-end where he can make plays instead of inside. Clayton - Post saying he is up to 290?!?! He came in listed at 255 so to somehow throw on 35 pounds of good weight is slightly shocking. Getting to 280 this soon would be pretty amazing but possible. I know he is a hard worker. Spitz - Same as Clayton with a twist. I have seen talk he is up to around 290 or down to 255. I think he ends up a starter at some point next season if he can get to 285 by next fall. It's that time of year for rumors. I don't think Wolfgramm will get to 100% with his back but hopefully the back is better than last year. I give him a lot of credit for playing most of last season probably a lot less than 100%. I think he's likely a starter at this point. As things stand I see the d-line a year away because the 3 senior d-tackles have their issues and everyone else is so young. D-end finally looks to have a lot of promise. Rumor has it that Long is up to 260 with Kaufusi at 250 and Robinson probably 270-ish, if not more. Still too young, but finally some depth and hope all along the d-line. One more rumor out there. Q. Buckley is already living in Pullman so maybe he is getting close to eligible. Who knows though.
Clayton and Spitz at 290+?
4 Saturday, 20 March 2010 10:13
OpenToClose
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Honestly, that would be a dream scenario. I will say this. The Coug strength program is built on this philosophy of packing weight on through the winter and not focusing a ton on proportion. So, expect to see similar cadence to last year where there will be some really big gains as that first roster is announced this coming week. Then the Summer is spent toning and really working on speed outside. I guess it wouldn't surprise me to see a Clayton come in at 290 this Spring and then be at 280 to start Fall camp in August. There are some interesting parts for sure. At least we can get excited about the possibilities as opposed to the last couple of years, right?? Buckley feels a lot like Joseph Townsend to me. I'll believe he's actually on the roster and eligible to play when I see it. I hope he makes it though. We badly need a few more young guys to develop at dtackle.
Makes sense
5 Saturday, 20 March 2010 22:41
BornCoug
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Buckley is Townsend until proven otherwise. Clayton and Spitz will become Pac 10 quality but they are most likely a year away or maybe two in Clayton's case. Maybe I'm wrong but Rien Long started to break through as a redshirt soph. and then exploded as a redshirt junior. It really took Jeremy Williams until his redshirt junior year to become consistently solid. I use those guys as my gauge and expect it to take d-tackles until their junior season to become consistent.
The list is endless
6 Sunday, 21 March 2010 07:15
OpenToClose
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I can't really think of a single dtackle that came in and did more than play average those first couple of years of eligibility at WSU. We just simply don't get those sorts of players. We have to build them when they get to Pullman and then look for tremendous productivity those last two years. At least that was my logic in hoping that Wolffgramm and Laurenzi are two guys that show up big this year. Huge bonus if Clayton and Spitz are at a legit weight. They would be bucking the trends if they become really good players this season though. I hope they do of course. It would totally alter how we view the dtackle situation this season and the next two.
Depth Chart
7 Wednesday, 24 March 2010 14:14
BornCoug
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Grippi's reports some info. Brandon Rankin apparently checks in at 6-5, 271. That's enough confirmation for me to know we are in doubt if they are considering moving him inside. He has never played the position and is too small. Keep Rankin at d-end where he can make an impact instead of getting eaten alive inside.
Looks like a reality at this point
8 Friday, 26 March 2010 07:17
OpenToClose
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Sounds like Rankin worked most of the day at dtackle. Wouldn't be surprising to see him around 280-285 by August and that wouldn't be too bad. Let's see how this Spring pans out. I hate the idea of wasting his dend talent but at this point we just need the four best players in there and I've got zero faith in our dtackle depth.

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